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My Before-Baby Bucket List

Taylor Hengen Newman

September has edged suddenly into sight – in a this-is-really-happening kind of way – and although I have a busy several months ahead of me, I’ve been drumming up a bucket list of things I want to be sure to do before a new baby takes over my world once again. Don’t get me wrong; as a second-time mom I know how fleeting infancy is, and I plan to savor every second of tiny-person time I’m going to get with this next little bean. But I also know there are some activities that aren’t quite as easy to pull off with a newborn in the picture (not to mention a newborn plus a toddler… gulp).

So carpe diem, right? Check out my short list of pre-baby to-do’s below! And if I’m missing anything crucial or especially awesome, let me know in the comments and I’ll add your ideas on.

Plus: Preparing Pre-Schoolers for New Siblings

1. Go on three (count ‘em) date nights with Aaron: Life gets busy – fast – when you’re married with kids, and date nights are not to be underestimated for their restorative properties. There’s nothing quite like getting a little dressed up – enjoying some sake and sushi among other full-grown adults in a festive, dimly-lit atmosphere and conversing with one’s spouse about something other than when your kid last pooped – to set the sparks a-flying. Of course, due to busy schedules and fam-style budgets, Aaron and I don’t go on nearly as many just-us dates as we intend to. But we always love it when we get out together and remind each other then that we should take ourselves out more. Sake and sushi may not be in the cards while I’m pregnant, but some romantic evenings certainly can be. It’ll be a while before we get another date alone together once our baby’s arrived, so we’re going to fit three such evenings in before kiddo pops. That’s one date night a month, people. Totally doable. And summer is the perfect time for budget-friendly evenings on the town; we can always grab some grub from one of Austin’s famed food trailers and then have a picnic while enjoying some Blues on the Green, or catch dinner and movie on the roof of the downtown Whole Foods. I’m stacking up some babysitting trades with mom-friends now, too, so we won’t have to pay for a sitter on top of our outings.

2. Pose (and be candid) for professional pregnancy photos: I love Instagram selfies as much as the next girl (see here, and above), but professional pregnancy photographs can capture a mama's – and her growing family’s – style and spirit in ways that continually amaze me. (Pinterest is a gold mine for inspiration on this front, btw.) I’m lucky to know several super-talented photographers who know me very well, and who I’ll trust to capture my belly, my boys (I want Aaron and Kaspar to get in on this, too), and my expectant mama joy just perfectly. My bestie Jenn takes beautiful photographs and lives a stone’s throw away, and I've signed her up to rock my pregnancy shoot. We’re going to have tons of fun with this project, and I’ll hit her back with a new-baby family photoshoot of her own. (I’m no pro but I can fake it.)

3. Go camping/get away with my boys: Okay, so sleeping isn’t comfortable right now even in our queen sized bed with copious support-pillow formations, and it’s especially uncomfortable when Kaspar joins us to ‘snuggle’ in the mornings and ends up kicking me in the kidneys for 20 minutes until I begrudgingly get up. Sleeping on the ground, or on a thin foam camping mat (in a tent… with Kaspar… all night…) doesn’t sound appealing to me at this juncture, at all. That said, kiddo is really into the idea of camping lately; he’s never actually been camping, and I have no idea how he’s even heard of it, but I think he may be onto something. A rustic family overnight, perhaps with a short hike and some canoeing thrown in, are completely feasible with a three-year-old. And pre-baby family bonding time will be good for him, and us, in advance of little brother’s arrival. I’m marking the calendar and scoping out cabin-camping options (the tent is not happening) in the many state parks around and just outside of Austin – maybe we’ll drive to the coast, or wind up somewhere in the Hill Country for our nature fix.

4. Get my girl-time in: Kid-free time with friends can easily land on the back burner in much the same way as date nights with our dudes do. But time with friends is a key secret to busy mama sanity, too. I’m scheduling it in while I still have a degree of independence; one mama friend and I are getting together for tea drinks every Tuesday before picking up our kids, and another friend has been organizing small ladies’ nights every few weeks at cool restaurants around town. It’s so worth it, and so refreshing, to make the time. Meanwhile, play-dates with the kids still make busy mom socializing convenient and easy, and a bunch (six!) of my friends are having babies this summer, too, so I’m getting some newborn-love/mama-care visits in before my own bundle arrives. It’s all special and important and good for the soul.

5. Set up baby’s space: Our baby’s space will be in our master bedroom, in a corner next to the bed. (He’s going to sleep in a baby hammock.) I already have a large basket full of cloth diapering supplies in that corner, but otherwise our baby gear is still in its boxes and I haven’t put anything up on the walls. I do plan to decorate, however, and prepare a cozy, comfortable, colorful space for us to share. I still need a good chair, and I’ve been collecting eclectic artwork – some children’s book illustrations and a few prints Kaspar made at school among them – to frame and hang on the wall. I also commissioned a dream-catcher from Shannon at Oil and Cotton, and I’m going to make paper maché zebra heads the month before the baby arrives, when I will have stopped working and will be too huge to do much beyond sitting in a kiddie pool sipping coconut water, or making crafts. Bring on the glitter and glue!

6. Logistics, logistics: Since I know I’m going to be eating a specific diet when the baby arrives, in the interest of minimizing baby's chances of developing food allergies like Kaspar's (I’m eating mostly according to the GAPS diet now, and will be avoiding all major allergens during my third trimester and into breastfeeding-ville), I’m going to need to stock our freezer with meals I’ve already prepared. I’ve also bought a green housecleaning deal via Living Social, so, sometime shortly before and another time shortly after baby arrives, I can go for a couple of long walks and come back to sparkling clean toilets and sinks. My cousin is planning to visit soon after baby's born, too, to help with Kaspar-tainment and to keep me company as I get my sea legs, and of course I hired my doulas last week, so I’ll have breastfeeding support at the ready. I'm thinking ahead!

Plus: Pregnancy Fantasy Vs. Reality

Am I missing anything? What should I add? What kinds of to-do’s did you prioritize in the months before baby’s arrival?

PS. Remember when I blogged about my ambivalence surrounding genetic testing, specifically around whether it brings peace of mind? I found my perfect solution -- the highly accurate, non-invasive Panorama Prenatal Test. I took this (one blood draw) and opted out of the standard sequential and quad screens, and shared a little about the experience -- it was a breeze -- in the comments here. (Have any of you taken one of these new blood tests in lieu of other prenatal testing options? I am so amazed by how far genetic testing has come in a few short years! Wave of the future, baby...)